Has Curiosity Made an ‘Earth-Shaking’ Discovery?

Article Updated: 23 Dec , 2015

This image was taken by Front Hazcam onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 102 (2012-11-18 21:41:54 UTC). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Mars Science Laboratory team has hinted that they might have some big news to share soon. But like good scientists, they are waiting until they verify their results before saying anything definitive. In an interview on NPR today, MSL Principal Investigator John Grotzinger said a recent soil sample test in the SAM instrument (Sample Analysis at Mars) shows something ‘earthshaking.’

“This data is gonna be one for the history books,” he said. “It’s looking really good.”

What could it be?

SAM is designed to investigate the chemical and isotopic composition of the Martian atmosphere and soil. In particular, SAM is looking for organic molecules, which is important in the search for life on Mars. Life as we know it cannot exist without organic molecules; however, they can exist without life. SAM will be able to detect lower concentrations of a wider variety of organic molecules than any other instrument yet sent to Mars.

As many scientists have said, both the presence and the absence of organic molecules would be important science results, as both would provide important information about the environmental conditions of Gale Crater on Mars.

But something ‘Earthshaking’ or “really good” probably wouldn’t be a nil result.

Already, the team has found evidence for huge amounts of flowing water in Gale Crater.

A detailed look at the layers on Aeolis Mons/Mt. Sharp, the central mound inside Gale Crater, the Curiosity rover’s ultimate destination. Credit: NASA/Caltech-JPL/MSSS

If SAM does find organic material, the next step would be to determine the origin and the nature of preservation of the molecules. But the team is going to wait until they verify whatever it is they found.

As NPR’s Joe Palca says in his report, “They have some exciting new results from one of the rover’s instruments. On the one hand, they’d like to tell everybody what they found, but on the other, they have to wait because they want to make sure their results are not just some fluke or error in their instrument.”

The team is being cautious because of their experience with looking for methane in the Martian air. When one of the SAM instruments analyzed an air sample, they got a reading of methane. But, it turned out, they were likely measuring some of the air that was brought along from Florida, as air leaked into the Tunable Laser Spectrometer (TLS) while the spacecraft was awaiting launch. The initial readings from the TLS, full of methane, were very exciting to the Curiosity scientists until they realized it was from Earth.

But NPR reports that Grotzinger says it will take several weeks before he and his team are ready to talk about their latest finding.

In the meantime there will likely be much speculation as everyone is excited about the prospects of life – past or present – on Mars. Either would have astounding implications.

265 Responses

  1. Can’t wait to know. Hopefully actual or past signs of life.

  2. joseluis j says:

    A true surprise would be they find no organics at all, considering the meteorite rain during millions of years

  3. Aqua4U says:

    I thought they would release something ‘earth shaking’ in the recent NOVA special? But they didn’t… now this! (Does a little dance) I had a ‘feeling’ earlier that something exciting had happened and now an affirmation! Can’t wait for the details…

    See (?) my comment in the earlier UT post entitled(?): Watch: Ultimate Mars Challenge

  4. kerby hyland says:

    They found plastic, just like will be found on earth millions of years from now.

  5. Ned Wreck says:

    If they had anything they would have told us. They never find anything other than new ways to waste our money

    • Matt Holden says:

      Every dollar of space research results in eight dollars of new revenue for the US economy, as well as keeping America on the forefront of scientific research and education, providing critical new technology, and potentially saving our civilization while corporations destroy our planet. The team is double-checking their results before announcing, because they don’t want to be embarrassed by announcing something that turns out to be a false alarm. Because fools like you elect more fools like you to the House of Representatives, NASA needs to ensure its successes are big and public in order to secure future funding; they will announce as soon as it is scientifically prudent to do so. Please educate yourself a little bit before posting in a public forum, before trying to influence public opinion on this vital matter, and certainly before voting.

      • Steve Nixon says:


      • JohnJubly says:

        Why the House of Representatives? Is it because they have a slight Republican majority? When are you Americans going to have your stupid civil war and stfu finally.

      • donarb says:

        Why the House of Representatives? Because that’s where the funding for NASA comes from.

      • While I agree that there is benefit, I highly doubt that there is an eight-fold benefit.

        There is the Law of Diminishing Returns.

        While people may talk about Tang and Teflon, they were both invented long before the Apollo missions, it was only that received a great deal of publicity in the missions so only then did they become household names.

        “providing critical new technology, and potentially saving our civilization while corporations destroy our planet”

        Sorry, but even for the “space program” all of the critical technology is developed by corporations at the behest of the space program but not BY the space program.

    • Ivan B says:

      Really? They NEVER find ANYTHING? Buddy, your ignorance is painful (to me). Stop it.

    • Space research is not a waste of money. We don’t spend enough. Not in our lifetimes but in those to come it will be vital that we be able to move some population to other places to protect the human race and continue its existence. All of the planets out there are there for a reason and maybe that reason is other life. It is vital for us to seek this out. The space program since its inception has only spent a trillion dollars. That for the amount of years is nothing. We should have done so much more. A base should already be on the moon and we should have already go to mars to see if life could be established by sending many huge life pods to create oxygen and water and food so we could study the planet for long periods of time.
      If you want to talk wastes of money I can give you a million examples far less important to man than this.

    • disqus_E2aJDtx1Bg says:

      The stupid burns

    • Someone peed in your cornflakes this morning, eh?

  6. Donald Kines says:

    it’s probably salt. Salt is very exciting. I love salt!!!!!!!!

    • Dan Johnson says:

      Salt is only good in moderation. Bad for heart of Earth-based bipedal lifeforms. Maybe good for Martians though. They already know Mars has lots of salt. Gotta be something else. Pepper maybe?
      Anyway, I would guess if it is really big, it will be leaked in a few days by someone in the agency rather than take weeks as their currently saying.
      So if it was a definitive sign of past or present life, how would that change the world? Will their be a huge reaction or will it be fairly muted? I’m supposing it will be more muted than we have always anticipated (as in less news headlines/shorter timespan of high viewership than hurricane Sandy for example).
      Sandy was pretty big news, but compared to finding alien life, in my opinion, that hurricane is not that interesting. However, I’m a space and science geek. Just curious how the general public will react. Sandy affects people here and now, alien life discovery is just “neat”, but general populace will be kinda blah on it after a short period of attention.

      • “Salt is only good in moderation. Bad for heart of Earth-based bipedal lifeforms. ”

        Personally I haven’t given up salt, just the shaker. I’m more than happy to eat already-salty things, I just won’t shake more on. I love salt, but my mother salts her pizza and I don’t want to get to that point.

    • JonHanford says:

      Are you related to Nancy Crater, the “salt vampire” on Star Trek TOS?: http://startrekspace.blogspot.com/2012/10/star-trek-salt-vampire-monster.html

    • Rich says:

      Salt is good on a BLT!!!! and BACON!!!!!

    • The best is Redmond “Real Salt”, btw. Far and away the best.

  7. They cannot tell us yet…will have to wait for the BBC to verify the little aliens won’t say anything rude!

  8. Greg Trout says:

    Damn, I am curious. I hope this isn’t a letdown, because “earth-shaking” implies it’s something that will raise everyone’s attention, not just us nerds.

  9. John says:

    Twinkies !!!

  10. Steve says:

    Big foot!!!

  11. Ron Willison says:

    I’m thinking a MacDonald’s hamburger wrapper. Or some green cheese.

  12. Ron Willison says:

    High probability the soil samples will prove or disprove the notion that the moon is a direct result of a cosmic crash between the Earth and Mars or something like that.

  13. Raimo Kangasniemi says:

    If announcing the results really takes “weeks” I would have preferred them keeping silent until then. It’s (a very mild) form of torture they are inflicting upon us by making hints and forcing us to wait. 😉

    • newyorklogic says:

      It is rude and unprofessional, and smells of arrogance. NASA thinks this is their data, but it belongs to the people.

      • Jelqathan Shu says:

        Unprofessional? Would you rather they just release their data before they have had a chance to rigorously check it to make sure it is correct? NASA isn’t in the business of caring about your feelings, they’re scientists.

      • gr8s1 says:

        I see NASA’s folks as PSEUDO-scientists as they persist in publishing theory as fact. For a real scientific view of this and the rest of the Cosmos, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_T6__JDeyw

      • jeffersonian_nc says:

        I think you misunderstand the defintion of theory. It is not a proof, it is a collection of hypothesis that may explain an event. If it is proven incorrect, then the theory is adjusted or even scraped. Scientists do not pretend to state theory as fact – but common people and politicians do.

      • xanderdyson says:

        Don’t bother. The ‘electric universe’ is just another sneaky little front group for the creationist loons.

      • I can assure you that the Talbot, Thornhill et al, are at least agnostics, if not atheists. You have no idea what you are talking about. The electric universe theory is revolutionary, and is gaining momentum daily. http://www.thunderbolts.info

      • Torbjörn Larsson says:

        No, you are deluded or trying to delude. There are exactly 0 papers in peer reviewed cosmology that derives from EU theory.

      • pappadave says:

        Actually, not so. We have dozens of “climatologists” who claim that they know what our climate is going to be like 50-100 years hence…when their “model” for climate change couldn’t even accurately “predict” what has already happened to climate over the PAST 100 years.

      • Torbjörn Larsson says:

        That is well before the current climate regime anthropic forcing became dominant. But as it so happens, the models are accurate because they don’t depend on the type of forcing.

        See IPCC -7 for a review of all the relevant science and its accuracy.

      • jeffersonian_nc says:

        True, except that I do not believe that climatologists fall under a “hard science”. They really are more of an artist that thinks they are a scientist. 🙂

      • xanderdyson says:

        OH THE IRONY! Thanks for wasting my time with your pseudo-scientific creationist mumbo jumbo.

      • AugustineThomas says:

        I bet you’re far more full of nonsense than a creationist if you’re anything like all the other little atheist man boy kooks who think not believing in God means they know something about science.
        (Hate to break it to you, but the average regular church attendee is more scientifically literate than the average secularist, who is addicted to sex and drugs. But keep believing your vain fantasies, like how you believe that you just POOF! appeared from thin air, being the self creating man god that you are, who came to earth with all the theists for some reason..)

      • xanderdyson says:

        Interesting. You’re named after a theologian who masqueraded as a philosopher.

      • Rich says:

        Are you for real?

      • MetamorphosisCatalyst says:

        Dude, you sound like a grade-A a**hole. Thanks for breaking to me, as I am an atheist, that I am also “addicted to sex and drugs.” I should get that looked at.
        Ever consider the possibility that YOU are “addicted to religion” in an attempt to soothe your fear and pain re: death?

      • Eric Larson says:

        Clearly a troll ha!

      • Billy Butch says:

        Yes, YouTube. The bastion of scientific fact. Downvote for you sir.

      • Omeca Kelly says:

        I don’t think you understand the difference between a fact and a theory. gravity, viruses, and the earth revolving around the sun are all theroies. A theory is the highest level an idea can obtain – facts are within theorys, as well as laws. Sorry for the typos. Have a great day!

      • MRM_The_First says:

        Really… The earth revolving around the sun is just a theory??? Time for you to go back to school. Pick a better one than wherever you failed at last time.

      • Charles French says:

        Seriously electrical discharge? I’m no scientist but damn that would have to be one hell of a discharge to remove 5 miles off the of the northern hemisphere of Mars .

      • patriot6280 says:

        I think the point here is, hold off on announcements until you have something to announce. It’s kind of like saying (in a sing-songy na na na na na na voice) “I have a secret, but I’m not gonna tell ya!” If you can’t tell me now, you shouldn’t have said anything until you could.

      • Raimo Kangasniemi says:

        I believe now that they just intended to give something extra for the NPR reporter, not thinking it would get this much notice, but then NPR made the tidbit given to them the main part of the article. From a snowball of information to an avalanche of guessing.

      • JP says:

        Just like the Whitehouse, I would like them to shut the hell up until they are certain.

        You may recall various WH people adamantly blaming a video for Benghazi. Now that that has proven untrue they have tried to say the intel was fuzzy and that is why they didn’t blame terrorism. I call BS – someone lied deliberately because they DID blame the video instead of simply saying “it’s fuzzy but we’re throwing 100% of our resources at it to find out what happened”.

        If you don’t know, just say you don’t know. In NASA’s case, don’t say anything. Why is this hard to understand?

      • Darin Warren says:

        NASA needs to run the DATA through their muslim outreach committee 1st. At that point, the DATA will be released, or beheaded.

      • Rich says:

        Rich says that comment was awesome!!!!!!

      • John Gersper says:


      • Come on man, these people are NOT the MSM or the president and they want to make sure that the info they hand out is correct!!

      • Billy Butch says:

        Wow. Calm down there newyorkillogic.

      • EATitCNN says:

        Oh jeez just stuff it already.
        Smells of arrogance?? You must be a real jerk. I’m sure you’re a very unhappy person and scare your partners off regularly.

      • Sonny Bell says:

        There is an Aroma attached to this release, but not of arrogance, but of
        Global Warming Politics, whereas the data that comes in does not get
        immediately released, but has to be massaged by a committee of left-wing
        ideologues first.
        Just release the raw data as it comes in and let
        the chips fall where they may. There is nothing more dubious than
        information released by Propagandists who try to persuade the gullible
        into believing the party line, which hurts true science in the Long run.
        It’s as if they think we are all stupid and that when they tell us that
        2 + 2 = 22, that we will just Goosestep right along with them instead
        of analyzing the data ourselves and see what the truth really is when
        all is said & done.

      • jjbreen says:

        It’s “news” dude. Wow, do you really not understand “baiting” for attention and such? Plus they have learned to ‘double check’ their work … for obvious reasons.

      • I see New York logic ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.

    • Alan Maris says:

      hah, remember last time they had a HUGE announcement to make? It caused such a stir that I thought they found E.T. ; then it seems that they found a black hole some millions light years from us. Look, I am just a simple guy and unless they found something that will physically affect me in 30 min or so they should probably not make such a fuss.

      OMG!!! WE FOUND A EFFING BLACK HOLE!!!! 100000000 LY AWAY!. Wow.. :))

      • EATitCNN says:

        Why– is your attention span only 30 mins long?
        You must be an Obama supporter.
        NOW! GIMME! ME!

      • jjbreen says:

        I agree with John G. – Good response. I guess he would not want to know his wife is pregnant until the actual delivery day, because 9 months is just too long to wait?

      • John Gersper says:

        Great response

      • Charles French says:

        Yes a most brilliant response from a bitter Romney supporter

      • Will says:

        Yeah and they only found a tiny microorganism that depends on arsenic for life. They call it we are not alone. C’mon, maybe they found just a tiny liquid in Mars.

    • More of that control freak syndrome all too common to many scientists?

      • Raimo Kangasniemi says:

        Problem in recent times have been that some scientists have been too eager to come in public before getting the data published in a peer approved review, having press conferences before the study is out. This have caused some backlash from other scientists, and some scientists are trying to be a bit more careful now.

        The arsenic life debacle probably makes NASA more careful now not to make announcements before it is fully certain that the results can stand scrutiny from other scientists.

      • test test says:

        Scientists should keep their traps shut till they know something for certain. Earth shattering, history book making.. A load of manure if you ask me.

    • Tomas Cruz says:

      It’s the skull of a rodent.

    • PilotDave says:

      “No Bucks, No Buck Rogers” They are simply trying to survive budget cuts (and keep their jobs)… any marketing firm would have them do this enticement thing.

  14. Wouldn’t that be a Mars-Shaking discovery?

    • The humor end of my brain: Zing! Good one!
      at the same time…
      The analytical end of my brain: “Earth” is a general English term for soil, and will probably be used as such when we move to other planets. Hence the general population will probably call the earthquakes and not quibble on terminology when the ground is shaking and getting into a doorway is a more prudent course of action.

      • AugustineThomas says:

        Well maybe you should work on the grammatical part of your brain. (This is a common problem, science dorks thinking they know everything about everything because the power of science is in vogue right now and people let them for some reason, probably out of apathy and stupidity.)

        In fact, if you capsulize ‘earth’ it refers to this planet. ‘Earth’ is the proper name of our planet. You can dig earth or unearth something on Earth.
        (Aspiring scientists really need to work on being more wise and less pedantic. Think about all the things they don’t teach you in science class and, as humans, how ignorant we all are. The great scientific discoveries were made by patience and humility, not a foolish and vainglorious cocksurety.)

      • Eric Larson says:

        I’m loving that you’ve clearly come here with the intention of trying to talk down to people. I would put money down to say you didn’t even read the article. You do know that’s what youtube is for yes?

      • AugustineThomas says:

        That was so hilarious. You should be a comedian.

      • Do you mean that if the Wright brothers had not capsulized Airplane we would not be flying today

      • AugustineThomas says:

        Typing on an Ipad…you’re still a pedantic shmuck who made a mistake while he was criticizing someone else.

        I was just giving you a taste of your own medicine. I know I’m an idiot and I’m proud of it! (Even though it’s my Ipad’s fault and I’m sticking to my story! I mean seriously I really thought “capsulize” was the word for using a capital letter.)

      • plus grammar dude says:

        If I were to capsulize E I would be making a summary of e, if I were to capitalize e I would get an upper case E. Don’t be a derogatory dick if you can’t even use your own language properly. I seriously don’t know what you mean by capsulize earth. Are you writing a summary on earth for a fouth grade test or what?

    • Joel A. Edge says:

      Only if someone was there to appreciate it.

  15. Alex says:

    Omg I bet they found bacon!

  16. Robbery says:

    Maybe it’s Jimmy Hoffa. Sorry I had to. I’m all worked up over this, but the “could take several weeks” part is going to kill me.

    • newyorklogic says:

      It isn’t like we can’t handle an early release of the data and a caution that it must be confirmed. There is no reason not to release this now.

      • Dav_Daddy says:

        Yeah and watch when the next day this unconformed major discovery is on the front page of every major news paper and talk show in the nation.

        Then when they find their error
        1. The public is pissed
        2. They all look like fools
        3. They wind up with a big ole funding cut

        I cant count how many times ppl here have beat NASA up for the way they do PR. Now they try to build a little drama & anticipation everyone takes issue?


  17. Sounds like Dr. Levin will have his day soon one way or the other.

    “Earth shaking” on Mars would be the discovery of soil organics which would make the Viking (GCMS) none-detection of organics a false negative and would increase the odds of a true positive for life (Viking LR) by magnitudes. ..Or they found the mysterious planet wide super-oxidant which was/is used to explain away the Viking biology results without actual proof of it existing on Mars to this date.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      Both the Vikings found observations predicted by having life (local diurnal chemical imbalances) and predicted by not having life (no organics).

      The “super-oxidant” hypothesis was not used to “explain away” results, you can’t do that with tests. It was a parsimonious hypothesis predicting the results out of known constraints:

      – There were local mechanisms producing oxidants, UV under the thin atmosphere. Indeed, Phoenix found precisely the type of heat and/or wet activated oxidant (perchlorates) that would predict the result, in combination with the diurnal temperature swing of the Vikings.

      – There were indigenous potential sources of oxidants. The Vikings were prepared with cleans that could leave oxidant traces.

      I don’t think anyone ever has claimed the type of oxidants produced are global, even if the mechanism is. It is doubtful that the Viking areas would have the perchlorates that would be produced and cold stored in the polar ice regions.

      Instead, as I remember it, it was enough if peroxides were produced during daytime, out of the slight moisture that the atmosphere and soil contains.

      Seriously, who cares about a set of experiments that happened to be inconsistent if there were life and consistent if the known environment was at hand? Even if MSL would find surface organics, which is unlikely, it wouldn’t make the inconsistent Viking’s experiment outcomes consistent.

      • Dont make things more complicated than necessary! The Viking LR data was and still is fully consistent with the presence of microbial life on Mars. The thing which made the results inconclusive was the failure of the Viking GCMS to detect organics in the soil which made them think: no organics, no microbes. So they thought there must be some substance/chemical in the soil of both Viking landing sites (almost same positive LR results) which mimics the LR and to certain extents the other biology experiments too -> super-oxidants.
        Now almost 40 years later we found no evidence of super-oxidants except small quantities of perchlorates in Martian arctic soil – which cannot replicate the full suite of LR results in lab tests but could explain the Viking GCMS failure – and, depending on the announced “Earth shaking” new finding, we potentially have found the missing organics…

      • Torbjörn Larsson says:

        Yes, we agree on the science. The full Viking experiments will never be consistent with life or organics, as I noted and as you admit. It is only oxidants that can predict the full set of observations.

        They are predicted by the environment and, by the above, unambiguously observed, as far as the observations go, by the Vikings. (And similar processes are also unambiguously observed by Phoenix.)

        That is why the MSL results will never go towards resolving the Viking experiments.

      • To make things even shorter: the full flight data of the Viking LR experiment CANNOT be replicated by known (on Mars) inorganic chemicals (eg. oxidants) but are fully consistent with the presence of microbial life in the soil at both Viking landing sites. Remember the Viking biology tests were not one single experiment but 3 different stand alone/NONE INTERLINKED life detection tests. As already mentioned – the problem of Viking was the failure to detect organics with its early version of the MSL SAM system (Viking GC/MS) which made the life detection results a mystery for the involved scientists so they went the easy path and announced no organics=no life (…just forget the life detection results).

        If MSL readily detects organics with its increased sensitivity it sure has major implications for the old Viking data and the question for life on Mars -> “Earth shaking”

      • Torbjörn Larsson says:

        To concentrate on one experiment doesn’t make things shorter, it makes it incomplete.

        It is my understanding that oxidants can predict all of the experiments.

  18. Torbjörn Larsson says:

    Considering the sample location and its history, it is very difficult to predict what they have found.

    They are sampling in an ancient stream bed going back to the early days of Mars when organics were produced and sedimented under a thick atmosphere. (Nothing much could have stopped that from happening.) So that is good.

    Then the Gale crater were filled with aeolian sediments. As it happened well before the atmosphere was thinned, we are still good.

    And now aeolian erosion has excavated down to the stream bed again. So they are good.

    The problem is that the soil taken is mostly aeolian deposit from elsewhere. It can be an organics signal, but seeing how little material should be from Gale, and how it has been blown around on the surface for a long time, the odds stack against it.

    My guess then is that they have found evidence for an active martian geology, in the form of fresh volcanic residues. That would be evidence of some earth shaking.

    • zkank says:

      I’m guessing it will have to be something a good deal more profound than simply some further evidence of someone’s previous hypothesis, or of an interest to only a select section of the scientist observers.

      “Earthshaking” is a term NASA has never used before, to my knowledge.
      Something unique, should be a justifiable use of the term.

      If it’s layer of a material similar to algae, or a layer of suspected bacteria as has been found in our own deserts, that would qualify for “earthshaking”, to me.

      I agree with the others being po’d at the unfair teaser, but this must be an indicator of how excited they are.

      Sensationalistic media would run wild and irresponsibly with any premature release, and have everyone expecting too much, I think.
      If “earth shaking” is a play on words for evidence of current earth/marsquakes, NASA will be guilty of sensationalism, themselves, and lose a lot of crediblility with me!

      • Ethan Walker says:

        Remember that scientist’s idea of exciting quite offen differs from the public at large. There was a similar incident during the phoenix mission where NASA let the media know that they were going to be releasing big news ahead of time, -it turned out to be the existence of perchlorates, when many were expecting evidence of life. It’s also important to put this in the context of the experiment that was being done. SAM cannot discover algae, bacteria, or microorganisms. It will say something about the chemical composition of the soil. Something that will probably very exciting to a select group of scientists, interesting to a larger group of the science-curious public, and boooring to everyone else.

      • Torbjörn Larsson says:


        By the way, Curiosity could possibly detect “desert varnish”, which builds rapidly around stream beds and recently has been associated with bacterial growth.

        However, that would have been when digging into a rock sample. In a wind drift soil sample, not so easily seen.

      • Torbjörn Larsson says:

        I fully admit that the social side of this points to something like you describe. I just can’t find it likely.

        Which of course is consistent with “earthshaking”.

        Also, as the article is worded, it is entirely consistent that it is Palca that injects “earthshaking” into the article. Finding fresh volcanism, or some other identifiable but exciting global process, would go into the history books.

    • lcrowell says:

      My suspicion is that it is organic chemicals have been found. The fact that it would be transient if brought in from elsewhere, say borne on the wind, would suggest active biology. Active volcanic activity is of course interesting, but I am not sure it is “Earth shaking.”


    • Naw, they found Warren Spector’s pocket watch. #martiandreams #spacecannon

  19. Anthony Giallourakis says:

    They found fossilized shell, perhaps?

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      Actually, that would work. But it is unlikely that an early biosphere produced multicellulars.

      However, today’s unicellulars can produce shells that are quite massive. Of course, it is modern eukaryotes, but points at a possibility.

      More likely, if we entertain the notion that some of the stream bed particles have entered the aeolian soil sample, is that there is some type of carbonaceous encrustation that bacteria has produced under eons. They could trap organics too.

      However, see my previous comment. At a guess, it would be little such material. That is a _guess_ though, so … not my guess, but … yeah.

      • bfmorris says:

        I like the calcium carbonate guess.perhaps it would present as limestone.

      • ren00r says:

        IF there ever was life on Mars, it would do everything to survive worsening conditions leading to its extinction. So a shell seems to be logical step in protection from environment.

  20. john says:

    they have found a lot more than we know about. however NASA provides jobs for many people so they can not give the human population all the info at once. They have a schedule and budget that goes many years out and funding and jobs would be lost in the science community if they gave all the answers at once. its bureaucratic just like everything else on this annoying pebble you call earth.

  21. john says:

    and to matt holden. if you think this is a “vital” matter i believe this civilization is doomed. although it is great to find things that anyone with half a brain knows already exists the real “vital” matters are here on earth. like when a 9 year old girl gets her head blown off in a school bus by a brainwashed member of the taliban for publishing an article about them in her school paper. . I may only be a dumb concrete mason from NYC but to use “vital” in this conversation is absolutely absurd. …. just sayin…….

  22. newyorklogic says:

    NASA should release the data immediately, and just caution that the data is not yet confirmed. What is the big deal NASA, unless you found our ancestors. This data belongs to Americans, we want it.

    • kkt says:

      And risk embarrassing themselves, like the cold fusion people or the FTL people?

    • Serafinna says:

      I think the data belongs to everyone and not just Americans but yes I much rather prefer that they release what they’ve found and confirm it later or just not say anything at all. Its frustrating we have to wait weeks before we know what they’ve found.

    • napoleon_solo says:

      Because an announcement that indisputable evidence of ancient life has been found (if that’s what this is about) could have very serious ramifications. I mean, if some humans would stone to death a woman who publicly speaks to a male who is not a family member, imagine their reaction to learn they might not be the cream of the crop.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      Of course they can release the raw data, but it would say nothing to those outside the experiments. As a comparison, would a data dump of a jpeg compression help you draw the image from scratch (not having the jpeg algorithms)?

      It is the vetted observation, when all the constraints of the experiments have been accounted for, which is interesting. And as they say, it will take a few weeks to settle on what it is.

  23. Alexander Johansen says:

    Wall-E, is that you?

  24. Sam I Am says:

    They found weed but curiosity smoked it, jerked off and then fell asleep.

  25. Guest says:


  26. John Clinton says:

    My funny joke is that they found a huge pile of everybodies missing socks. Not as funny as racist propaganda but I’m getting better at it.

  27. eris_kallisti says:

    It’s a godawful small affair to the girl with the mousy hair.

  28. brundall says:

    I really hope they tell us what it is before the world ends on the 21st Dec….

  29. Granny Smith says:

    They found Elvis in the first MacDonald on Mars

  30. If they find life on Mars, what’s the risk that the organisms were a contamination from Earth?

    • Fairly low. It would take far more than this paltry 40 years for any microbes hitchhikers from our probes to flourish in the unforgiving Martian environment. This doesn’t mean those hitchhikers aren’t there, they just wouldn’t be detected in Gale crater, so far from their origination points and with such a small timescale.

      • So we may have brought life to Mars, but it is unlikely to contaminate the results, is that what you’re saying? Would you say that the risk (or chance) is high that there are surviving microbes on Mars brought there by us, or low? In a way I find it intriguing to imagine that we may have started a parallel “tree of life”. This could be the definite absolute proof against creationism.

  31. meekGee says:

    My guess, for the record – they found evidence that there’s an active water flow underfoot, either currently or just in certain seasons. (that is – less than one Mars year ago)

    For example – salts that still have some humidity in them. And more of them at the bottom of the channel than near the surface.

  32. Dampe says:

    Well, it sure as hell won’t be evidence for past or current life.
    I don’t really care about “what if” questions regarding whether life could have existed in the past. As much as I love the Mars missions, their way of releasing information really sucks. Too much hype.

    • napoleon_solo says:

      Why wouldn’t it be “evidence for past or current life?” What else could it be? What else does the instrument in question look for? Come on, be a bit optimistic.

      • Raimo Kangasniemi says:

        NASA is already saying that the find will not be “earth-shattering”, but very interesting. So it’s not life, but it’s something that will clarify our view of either current or past chemistry or geology of Mars. If we are lucky, perhaps there are some indications of pre-biotic organics.

      • Torbjörn Larsson says:

        Thank you. I suspected that it was Palca’s injection into the article at worst. Do you have any reference to the NASA commentary?

        Pre-biotic organic production would be interesting. They found organics in the shergottites and the ALH samples IIRC, but crustally produced under heat and pressure. So that is a definite gap to fill already there.

      • Raimo Kangasniemi says:

        This is from a TIME article:

        “JPL spokesman Guy Webster made just this point today in an e-mail to TIME: “As for history books, the whole mission is for the history books,” he wrote. That’s not to say he rules out the possibility of truly big news.“It won’t be earthshaking,” he said in a later phone call, “but it will be interesting.”

        And as for the scoop the NPR reporter and HuffPo announced? “John was excited about the quality and range of information coming in from SAM during the day a reporter happened to be sitting in John’s office last week,” Webster wrote. “He has been similarly excited by results at other
        points during the mission so far.””

        Read more: http://science.time.com/2012/11/20/a-mars-announcement-for-the-history-books/#ixzz2CsfwXLDS

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      If they find organics, it would close the search for habitability. That is evidence for how past or present life exists, which environment that it can start in and how often, whether they find any such life or not.

      This is the whole idea of astrobiology. By constraining life anywhere, we can understand life everywhere.

  33. Dav_Daddy says:

    If they found oil we will have a base there before the end of 2013.

  34. Don’t you have a planet you need to get back to?

  35. God, there sure are some pea brains commenting here….

  36. Life! from all the unsterilized Russian and American landers and probes from the 1950s and 1960s. Fungus, bateria, etc. etc.

    • napoleon_solo says:

      You don’t think that a 3-month trip through a vacuum subjected to cosmic radiation is sterilization enough? It’s not as if an astronaut unzipped and took a leak.

  37. GeorgiaVoter says:

    They found a way to create hype in a desperate bid for additional funding?

  38. Dick Lipski says:

    It’s Bush’s fault! OBAMA PHONE!

  39. jakartaman says:

    They found a skeleton of big foot!

  40. David Jenson says:

    They found a Mtn. Dew bottle that some caffeine addled alien tossed out on his way out of the solar system!

  41. Darin Warren says:

    Why would bacteria be considered “life” on mars, but an unborn baby is not on Earth? Mars is a waste of taxpayer money. Time to pull the plug on stuff we cannot afford. Let Branson do this with money he actually EARNED!

    • TJtruthandjustice says:

      I suppose you give all of your money to take care of all the unwanted children in the world. If you don’t, shut your pie hole. If a woman’s body isn’t her own property, I don’t know what is.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      Because of biology. A dependent cluster of cells is neither a baby or a person, or we would call a liver a baby.

      By consensus, a baby is what you get when a fetus it is born and not a dependent (dying) premature delivery. Biologists think that a baby arrives at personhood after a few moths, when the brain is organized enough to understand “self” in relation to the environment.

    • Eric Larson says:

      We can afford it. But we focus instead on things that don’t matter. I believe that Neil DeGrasse Tyson brought up the fact that the US bank bailout cost more than the entire running budget of nasa in 50 years. Also we do need to get on that whole “explore the universe” thing. Its the next step of our evolution. But I’m sure random zygotes need your attention so best stay away from real issues like this.

  42. Jesuslander says:

    They found a perfectly preserved body of a little green man.

  43. Hojo says:

    Nasa has found life from Uranus on Mars!

  44. Darin Warren says:

    C’mon, we allllll know that NASA needs to run the DATA through their muslim outreach committee 1st. At that point, the DATA will be released, or beheaded.

  45. Jason Daniels says:

    I’m calling steer coprolite on this one.

  46. Jd Noland says:

    It’s a Foot Print!

  47. McCloud9 says:

    “Earth Shattering”???? Gee, I thought it found Jimmy Hoffa.

  48. not being an astrophysicist/geologist my question is did Mars ever have a spinning iron core providing a magnetic field necessary for the deflection of solar radiation, allowing the creation of an atmosphere. If not I don’t see how they might find evidence of surface life.

    • Raimo Kangasniemi says:

      Mars have local, remnant magnetic fields and other evidence of a past global magnetic field.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      Even the current martian atmosphere shows that it is blocking radiation (with a factor ~ 2).

      A past atmosphere would have been even better. And as for the past global magnetic field there is now isotopic evidence for a past thick, protective atmosphere (courtesy Curiosity) as well as other evidences.

      Mars likely started out surface habitable. But even if not, a past or present crustal biosphere is quite possible.

  49. Whats the big deal? Every reasonable thinker knows there is other life out there. They only ones denying it are NASA and the CIA.

  50. I have heard, from solid sources, that they found Mitt Romney’s tax returns.

  51. stopthejunk1 says:

    This just in: the side of Mars Curiosity has been spray-painted with graffiti-like scrawlings. Little green men in hoodies then scurried away from the scene.

  52. IllegalAmigo says:

    40 years ago the public was treated with a lot more respect than we are now. NASA saying it found an amazing discovery and then NOT announcing the details would never be tolerated back then. I am sick and tired of being treated like a moron. OK, so maybe you need to recheck the data, we can handle it if you later find it was a fluke, but please tell us what you found now. After all, we do pay for all their labor, hardware and software.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      Of course they can release the raw data, but it would say nothing to those outside the experiments.

      As a comparison, would a data dump of a jpeg compression help you draw the image from scratch (not having the jpeg algorithms)?

      Here it would be: Have you looked at an uncalibrated spectrogram and tried to identify the peaks and then the observed elements, especially without any notion on which type of filters (quartz windows, say) are in place before the light hits the detector or the sensitivity of the spectrometer?

      To make it worse, the data is formatted to go into analysis software that they have been preparing for months and years. You can’t possibly redo that work, so the raw data is in practice worthless.

      It is the vetted observation, when all the constraints of the experiments have been accounted for, which is interesting. And as they say, it will take a few weeks to settle on what it is.

  53. CruzerDog says:

    It’s Bush’s Fault there’s no Atmosphere. Stole the iron core. At least there’s no global warming. That would be a catastrophe.

  54. dooky says:

    Watch out now. The geeks probably found some sand. Go pound!

  55. Mat Helm says:

    It is budget crunch time in congress…..

  56. napoleon_solo says:

    Oh for Heaven’s sake. Lighten up.

  57. lickystick111 says:

    “…..waiting until they verify their results before saying anything definitive”

    Wow, I thought scientists just got together and voted on the desired outcome instead of verifying their findings. Tell this to the global warmer/climate changer cultists.

  58. Joel A. Edge says:

    Unfortunately; it will be tested and retested and someone else will propose and alternate theory..and then we won’t know anymore than we did. Love space exploration and NASA. Just hate the overhype. I keep hoping they’ll have video of something crawling up and trying to eat one of the rover’s wheels.

  59. Let’s see…”we found something, but want to make sure we found something so we won’t say anything”. Why was this story even written?

  60. Joel A. Edge says:

    Jimmy Hoffa’s body?

  61. Randy Kitchens says:

    What they found was a vote for Nicholas David.

  62. Obamasucks69 says:

    They have finally found Obama’s home planet.

  63. JoetheFilmmaker says:

    Let me guess, the rover will be constructing the first mosque on Mars. Sponsored by NASA.

    Honestly, this whole space thing is becoming a bore. Obama shut down America’s space program, so why should anyone care? Does anyone actually think America has the money to do anything on Mars?

    My guess is this will be some bogus announcement that they found evidence of a water puddle from a billion years ago, meaning whatever it is, I really don’t care. Go hyperdrives and flux capacitors or go home.

    Aliens won’t stir my interest, either. Here in California, we’re neck deep in aliens.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      It was the Bush administration that “shut down” the previous program and suggested the new. Obama just went along with that.

      On the other hand, the program that Obama suggested was overruled by Congress. Instead we now have the money pit of SLS.

  64. gwsjr425 says:

    Rover finds Jimmy Hoffa

  65. Kellybean717 says:

    Maybe they found all the military votes in the last election that never got counted.

  66. Stick says:

    What is earth shaking in this piece is there may be some earth shaking evidence discovered somewhere in the future. How does this dribble get published?

  67. justplainRick says:

    I heard they found Jimmy Hoffa’s bones.

  68. BenDoverPls says:

    They probably found a brown rock instead of the usual red/orange rocks.

  69. dkme1 says:

    LIFE!! That seems to be such an incredible word for scientists when exploring planets in our solar system and yet here on earth, when considering the unborn, it means absolutely nothing.

  70. 82Airborne says:

    Wait, what about the bootprint?

  71. Rich says:

    You people really need to get a life, I am having a jack and coke (aber es ist coke lite) and enjoying this more than I enjoyed waking up this morning.. “Keep it coming luv” to quote KC and his wunderbar Sunshine Band…

  72. Ron Burgandy says:

    I think, at long last, they found the Martian P38 explosive modulator.

  73. Raimo Kangasniemi says:

    It’s not just US made instruments that Curiosity carries. 😉

  74. Allan McNay says:

    Well I don’t see one intelligent remark here so I’ll wait and see what they find.

  75. Nemo says:

    (Re-post. Got censored) Why the f are we spending money on s like this? Russia and China will take care of it.

  76. TheFreeMarketeer says:

    “This data is gonna be one for the history books. Its looking really good.” This scientist code for: “I may or may not have something interesting, You have to give me more money to find out what it is.”

    • nickshaw says:

      Now, now. It’s not fair to say all scientists are infected with the “climate scientist” virus!
      But your point is taken. 😉

  77. Dan Hamilton says:

    The headline reads: Has Curiosity Made an ‘Earth Shaking’ Discovery? Well, apparently not yet? However, based on the unnecessary vitriolic comments I see below, perhaps the Earth is at least starting to tremble if not shake. And so it begins. Stay tuned!

  78. AZSchumi says:

    Probably just more votes for Romney that oblamer’s people didn’t process.

  79. Rob Dogg says:

    Is it Spock’s casket?

  80. Rich says:

    This is just a ploy by Michelle Obama and Chuck Bolden to get us to not imaging seeing Obama trying to make out with Aung San Suu Kyi!! Had to copy and paste that one

  81. Rich says:

    gotta stop trying to do this on Mars time, I cannot see my keebord…Too Dark and feeling a little hypoxic.

  82. Rich says:

    did everyone come here from Grudge?

  83. Dencal26 says:

    Mars Rover Curiosity will report it found another box of votes for Al Franken

  84. Rich says:

    Okay, I think most semi sentient people would agree that Earth is not the only place where life exist. Phil Plait may sometimes waffle on that point but Randy would tell you what Carl Sagen said, Billions and Billions of stars, we are star dust. Life is out there and probably some of it is a little more intelligent than this discussion…

  85. 144Cent says:

    Month after month of billion-dollar dune buggies scooping red sand and zapping holes in rocks aren’t making it any longer. Either come up with some megafauna or macrofossils, or those cozy NASA space science careers won’t be looking very worth while come economic crunch time.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      – Conspiracy theories are always the least likely explanation by construction, since conspirationists prefer them untestable.

      Now I grant you that the sociology of this would promote inflating discovery and churnalism. However, this isn’t a discovery and unwarranted churnalism would be ultimately counterproductive. NASA knows that.

      – It is unrealistic to expect complex multicellular life (megafauna) on Mars.

      Early stromatolites or biofilms (bacterial clustering) perhaps, even bacterial spore bodies (more bacterial clustering). But they are looking at a soil sample as of yet, so little place for that.

      If there are fossils, they should turn up deeper into the stream bed where Curiosity now stands, or in the clay sediments of the Gale mound. That can take weeks (need a fresh crater) or in the latter case years (need at least a year travel time) before we reach those.

  86. Snake_Oil_Baron says:

    They found bubblin’ crude (Oil, that is. Black gold. Texas tea).

  87. SofaKingCoolOne says:

    Maybe they found that the surface of Mars is covered in gold…so much so, that the price of an ounce of gold is now worth 10 bucks on Earth. That would be “earthshaking”…

  88. Torbjörn Larsson says:

    Ok, I give: they found the missing socks.

  89. Pat says:

    DARN IT, we should have landed a man on Mars in 2000 as was promised in 1969 when we landed on the moon. We have lost so very much by not being aggressive in space exploration.

  90. Sandor Clegane says:

    NASA was very wise to keep this under wraps until a thorough analysis can be conducted. It certainly would be nice to finally learn what many of us have suspected for decades. LIFE

  91. ChristopherH says:

    You know it’s just gonna be something boring- like maybe those six planes that disappeared from the Bermuda Tringle back in the forties.

  92. John D Lictro says:

    They always say they have a huge announcement, but then it turns out to be completely dull. We’ve been through this before.

  93. John Gersper says:

    Here is what they find out, I got this from a guy who knows a guy that is related to someone that worked for NASA during the Apollo years:
    Mars is a planet in our Solar System. As a matter of fact, it is the next furthest away from our star, :The Sun”.
    There it is, right out there for everyone to see.

  94. Olaf2 says:

    It seems that we attracted every crazy person on earth with this article when you look in the comments section.

    The announcement is about SAM.
    So so no big-foot, Yeti, alien artefacts, or anything else crazy.

    Most probably some chemical component, that might indicate the building blocks of life.

  95. effinayright says:

    Haven’t we found meteorites on earth that contain organic compounds, particularly in a recent one in Australia? And wouldn’t Mars experience many more intact meteorites impacts because of its thin atmosphere? If so, and if organics on Mars is supposedly the Big Discovery, I’m wondering how they will distinguish between meteorite-derived organic compounds from home-grown ones. Maybe they’ll announce protein fragments and not just amino acids. I dunno, I’m just a layman.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      Good question! Indeed, impactor delivery of organics is believed to have been an early source of organics on Earth.

      The answer is that it depends. Asteroid & comet organics will have a different D/H (deuterium to hydrogen) ratio than martian indigenous, perhaps they can pick up on that.

      Eventually they want to get to organics from early Mars, by looking at the early clay sediments of the Gale mound. Then it doesn’t matter as much if the source was indigenous or endogenous. The important part is that it is the missing piece of looking at habitability, which is Curiosity’s main mission.

      Curiosity isn’t especially equipped to look at extant or extinct life. That starts with the next missions if habitability can be established.

  96. Aqua4U says:

    Geeze… What a gawdawful accumulation of bereft nonsense! Some of the comments in this blog prove that intelligent life on THIS planet is suspect? Get a grip people.. your idiotic political punditry reflects how incredibly inept and uneducated you are!

  97. Tom says:

    NASA scientist have lost all crediblity after they tried to push global warming on the world at the direction of those on the far left. Science should never be infuence by those with political goals.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      Global warming, which only the most extreme science denialists deny today, and its anthropic origin is firm observations that 97 % of thousands of climate scientists stand behind. (Google!)

      NASA has been involved in providing instruments for climate science as well as they do on geological surveys et cetera. They didn’t “push” the results, they informed the public and politicians as best they could. (Google!)

      • nickshaw says:

        Only a dupe would repeat that 97% figure without knowing who the 97% actually represent.
        Unfortunately, there are a lot of dupes in the world today.

      • Charles French says:

        Lets be honest here, NOTHING short of an apocalypse would ever convince you since its not about the science with you folks its all about the politics and culture.

  98. NASA needs to wait until December 21st if it actually is a life (now/then) deal and announce it with the Caveat, “The Mayans were right. There was a huge change in our concepts about our place in the Universe… AND SCIENCE MADE IT HAPPEN!! “

  99. TKA says:

    They found Obamas legitimate birth certificate!!!

  100. Matt Powers says:

    Wow, they might find something that might be something that might be life if we assume life is created in the manner that only some scientists believe is the way to create life. I can hardly wait give that about 5 seconds of my time.

  101. LochGates44 says:

    It’s already agreed to join the Big 10.

  102. There are far more than one perspective and this would be something that touches every single person that’s ever existed, if you like it or not and especially once more info (again, if it is what is hoped) comes in per similar or exotic abiogenisis to our own, then that FAR outshadows and on a grand perspective anyone’s death for any reason. Get a grip on scope for the love of Zod (General).

  103. GOD! Obama supporter, Romney supporter, left, right….give it a break!

    • Charles French says:

      I agree enough of the with the politics and labeling. Lol “Egghead” on science site??? Please take your “I have to take a jab in ever post – insert political class -” to 4 channel. Its old, tired and adds nothing but seething hatred and bitterness to the discussion.

  104. Nivan Mal says:

    human origin —> mars. Period!!! if thats the earth-shaking news..

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      Not likely, neither Earth life originating on Mars (and humans alone are ruled out by ancestry) nor Curiosity being able to find any such evidence. The experiments can’t sequence DNA for example.

  105. Harsha V says:

    they mostly found evidence of Stromatolites

  106. Torbjörn Larsson says:

    The fun is over. A NASA spokesman was forced to come out and explain that Grotzinger was excited about the performance of the SAM, and indeed the whole Curiosity instrument suite.

    “John was delighted about the quality and range of information coming in from SAM during the day a reporter happened to be sitting in John’s office last week. He has been similarly delighted by results at other points during the mission so far,” spokesman Guy Webster told AFP.

    It is the mission and its data quality that is “for the history books”. Not any specific result.

    [ADDED AFTER POSTING] Another exposition here.

  107. Michael MacConnell says:

    I stopped paying attention the last time one of these eggheads tried to hype a discovery and it turned out to be utterly banal nerdbabble.

    You would have thought someone would have warned them against this crying wolf nonsense. Pretty soon people will begin to rightly ask WHY we are wasting so much money on this stuff, when it could otherwise be used by democrats to bribe more interest/identity groups.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      You are missing the content of the original article. It was _the journalist_ that tried to hype what came out of an ordinary interview.

      A NASA spokesman has been forced to come out and explain as much. They are well aware that hype is damaging, even when they are not the source of said hype.

      Science is never a waste of money, it is among the best ROI use of money you can think of. But one can seldom predict what specific work will pay off, instead we know it is mutually reinforcing.

  108. Will says:

    I hope it’s a real big one this time. If they found organic molecules in Mars that would really excite me but if they will just confirm that water once existed there it would be a baloney to let us wait for weeks.

  109. AugustineThomas says:

    That’s funny how you assumed an obvious typo was me truly believing that “capsulize” means to capitalize a letter.

    Way to make yourself look like an idiot trying to make me look like an idiot.

    You shouldn’t wrestle with a pig sun…(pig like to get dirty).

  110. Scientists and journalists have got to stop desribing things as “historical”. Because, technically, EVERYTHING is historical! It’s the most redundant word in the English language. Rather than say that something is historical, or “for the history books”, just state it’s significance. Otherwise it’s just an easy way to get attention for something that doesn’t deserve it.

  111. StanChaz says:

    Just between you and me,
    I have inside information:
    They found a,,,,, TWINKIE!!
    Just kididng,
    What they actually found was a live cockroach.
    They survive ANYWHERE.
    And they’ll be around long long after we’re gone.

  112. Singularity says:

    I think it would be pretty safe to say that I am the only one who sees how hilarious it is that a conversation that was sparked by an unreleased piece of information coming from NASA turned into a debate over theology? Lol maybe we are meant to become extinct at the hands of robots simply because of our inability to see anything past our own mortality.

  113. test test says:

    It’s possible they found “something” But with the coverups in place.. you’ll never know for a long long time.

  114. test test says:

    swamp gas.. Doesn’t surprise me.

Comments are closed.